Thursday, May 26, 2011

Inspiring Imaginations: Imagination Gardens

Oh how I love the imaginations of children!  As Walt Disney said "Our most valuable natural resource is the mind of a child".  How very true!! In the mind of a child, nothing is impossible.  There is no self-doubt or worry that someone will laugh at their ideas.  They share them with no reservation. Sadly, at some point in life, that magic is lost. It could be because someone laughs at an idea one too many times, or there just aren't enough opportunities to use one's imagination. Perhaps imaginations are being stolen by technology, read: Self Sizzle Play . Whatever the reason, far too many adults have little imagination, they have lost the ability to think outside the box, to solve problems in new ways.  As early childhood professionals, we hold the key for inspiring imaginations. We have the time, we have the resources (books, songs, art supplies, dumpster dive discoveries, re-purposed items...) and we have the minds of children to inspire!

Here's an example of how easy inspiring imaginations can be. It can be as simple as reading a story, then responding to the magnifiscent direction the minds of children may take it.

I plopped out the book My Garden by Keven Henkes in the spring of 2010.  This is a darling book about a little girl who is helping her mother in her garden.  She then drifts off into imagination and talks about what her own garden would be like. Flowers could change color just by her thinking it, if she planted a sea shell, sea shell plants would grow, and (my very favorite) the bunnies would not eat the lettuce because the bunnies would be chocolate, and she would eat them!

When I was finished reading (after the "read it agains" had subsided), I asked one simple question. Using as much suspense and wonder as I could muster I simply said "Boys and girls....what if you could have a garden like hers? WHAT would be magical in your garden?".  Oh the imaginative ideas the uninhibited mind of a child can have! They imagined starburst bushes and skittle plants, gummy bear visitors and shoe trees. The sparkle in their eyes told me that they believed with all their being that these ideas could be reality.

The more they imagined, the more I realized that a candy garden was truly their biggest dream.  I decided then that we would make these imaginary gardens come to life. 

that night, I ran to the store to get starbursts, skittles, gummy bears, gummy worms, chocolate pudding, chocolate teddy grahms, frosting and toothpicks.  Let the imaginations go wild!

We mixed up the pudding, crushed up the teddy grahms in ziplock bags with rolling pins (oh what fun).  After putting in the worms, each child filled their container with the pudding and cracker mixture.  Then, the real fun began.  Using the toothpicks, candy and frosting they could create anything they could imagine might grow in their gardens!

Not only were imaginations flourishing, but little minds were working on other things too.  Fingers were coordinating with eyes in order to spread frosting on small starbursts.  Patterning skills were used as beautiful skittle flowers emerged.  We were cooperating and sharing. We were counting, dividing and sorting.  We were enhancing our vocabularies as stories were told of the wonderful creations growing in each child's garden. All of this plus self-esteems bursting at the seams!

As you look at these pictures, sure, notice the creations in their hands.  But don't overlook the true treasure....the smiles and pride written clearly on the faces of the creators!

This year, as the snow melted and we were  S-L-O-W-L-Y reminded of spring and the wonder it brings, guess what was requested?!  And guess who happily responded!
Now go imagine!!